His Holiness the 13th Dalai Lama questioned and reprimanded Kyabje Phabongkha in connection with Dolgyal

His Holiness the 13th Dalai Lama

His Holiness the 13th Dalai Lama


Starting from the third line at the back of page no. 466, it states thus:

“His previous secretary from Chamdo told us time and again that Kyabje Phabongkha’s instruction to include Haryagriva within the merit-field of ‘Guru Yoga’, which was the same version of the Pomde’s thangka painting, was given at a time when he was being reprimanded from above [the 13th Dalai Lama].”

[An excerpt from His Holiness’ talk on Dolgyal at Drepung on 14th Jan. 2008]

Reading this paragraph from Kyabje Phabongkha’s biography, His Holiness spoke thus:

This paragraph is something that needs to be contemplated properly. When Kyabje Phabongkha Rinpoche was young, he had received The Sealed Secrets [the work on Nyingma by the Great 5th Dalai Lama]; there is clear indication that Rinpoche wanted to practise a non-sectarian form of Buddhism. Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche told me that while he was with Kyabje Phabongkha in Chusang Hermitage, he saw Phabongkha Rinpoche rolling red pills to be used as ‘special substances’ for the fire ritual connected with his retreat on Haryagriva. At that time, Trijang Rinpoche was very young, and running around playfully as Phabongkha Rinpoche prepared his pills for Haryangriva’s fire-ritual. Thus, in his early part of life, Phabongkha Rinpoche did a retreat on Haryagriva and had also received teachings on The Sealed Secrets. Such a person, in the latter part of his life, objected to Haryangriva’s inclusion in the merit field, saying Haryagriva is a deity of the Nyingma tradition. Thus, it is quite clear that later on he became quite sectarian. How did this stark change happen? It definitely did not happen due to his own initiative, but because of his association with Gyalpo Shugden. This fact is quite clear.

Some stories say that Shugden had displayed his wrath, such as showing Kyabje Phabongkha Rinpoche a blood soaked hand, turning the direction of his bed and so forth, at the time when Phabongkha Rinpoche was considering receiving The Bountiful, Excellent Vase [Doydjoe Bhumzang], the teachings which are considered sources for The Precious Treasury Teachings [Rinchen Terzod]. Henceforth, Phabongkha Rinpoche seemed to have got disenchanted with the Nyingma teachings. It seems that although Rinpoche might have spoken a few words that could be considered sectarian, his followers seem to have added much more to them and then carried out many despicable activities [creating rift and antagonism]. This is clearly reflected in the biography of Alak Jigme Dhamchoe. Thus, when I am promoting non-sectarinism and when this ecumenical practice is being widely embraced, that the propitiation of Dolgyal is hampers its proliferation is one reason why I am opposed to Dolgyal.

In the front-page of page no. 467, it says thus:

“Since last year’s admonishment [from the 13th Dalai Lama], it became uncomfortable to give those kinds of teachings which are usually given publicly. Imparting the novice and bhikshu’s vow was also not easy. So, at a time when he was giving teachings specifically requested and the lay-vow of upasika to individual devotees from far and near, the butler or the chief chamberlain [Drongnyer Chenmo] of His Holiness the 13th Dalai Lama, sent word again, like last year, through some servants from Norbu Lingka Palace. Je Lama [Phabongkha Rinpoche] was asked to present himself at the gate of Norbu Lingka Palace at first light the next day. When he went there the next day as scheduled, the butler conveyed instructions from the above with strong and heavy words of reprimand. In his response petition, he had written at length answers to all the questions; therefore, there is no need to repeat them here”.

In the second line of front-page no. 469, it says thus:

“Again, words were sent through a servant from Norbu Lingka Palace summoning this Je [Phabongkha] to come to Norbu Lingka to meet the butler. In this way, there were several exchanges of questions and answers like it happened before.”

His Holiness the 13th Dalai Lama reprimanded Kyabje Phabongkha for spreading the propitiation of Shugden. As recorded in the biography of Kyabje Phabongkha Rinpoche

His Holiness the 13th Dalai Lama reprimanded Kyabje Phabongkha for spreading the propitiation of Shugden. As recorded in the biography of Kyabje Phabongkha Rinpoche

In the second line of front-page no. 471, it says thus:

“The petition that immediately followed [the previous petition] goes like this: ‘Here is an appeal from me, the reincarnated Tulku who is known by the name Phabongkha, in connection with the intent of the instructions that were conveyed to me [the author of the biography] by the ‘Chief Chamberlain from Tse [Potala] Palace’. I have received a response to my previous petition submitted on 22nd of December[of the traditional Tibetan month]. I am deeply indebted to the explicit clarifications of all the points that are stated in your response. I have absolutely no explanation than to accept them as my own faults, and pledge to preserve your words deep within my heart. I beg your pardon for all errors that I had expressed in my petition. In your instruction, you have stated thus:

‘Although they are various other arguments supported by valid reasoning, and scriptural sources to refute your position on the three topics, for now, I would only go this far. However, there is contradiction in ‘your assertion of the importance we should attribute to refuge in the Three Jewels’ with your own propitiation of Shugden as your principle protector. Also, your teachings, for instance, last year’s teachings at Drepung, have been associated with your propagation of Shugden as a protector because of which we now see a widespread practice of Shugden among your students. Nechung Choegyal, the protector of Drepung who was appointed by Jamyang Choeje, the founder of Drepung, and entrusted with the protector’s responsibility in the monastery, has repeatedly expressed his disdain — when he came into trance at Drepung Lachi — that you have brought early degradation to the Dharma; the reason for repeatedly causing displeasures to Nechung Choegyal is again this [your propagation of Shugden]. Also, seeking support of a worldly wrathful-spirit in this life is inconsistent with the advice pertaining to the refuge-mind; it also contradicts your statement [in your petition] that you neither knowingly indulge in non-virtuous negativities by yourself nor cause others to do the same. Thus, you should answer them with proper clarification.’

As such, I respond here that as my mother had told me that Shugden was the local god of my own ancestors, I had to propitiate it on that ground. Although this was the case, from now onwards, with strong regret for my own mistakes, I pledge here with a strong commitment to never perform neither the ‘fulfillment-revival’ ritual nor the ritual for ‘swift action’ in connection with Shugden in future. May you, the supreme guardian who is especially kind towards inferior beings, no matter how my words that express this may sound, please accept my sincere apologies for causing the displeasure of the great protector Nechung Choegyal and for breaching the advice pertaining to the refuge-mind in the Three Jewels. I offer here five ‘sangs’ [Tibetan currency note] with a white special ‘ashe scarf’ as a gesture of my faith and as material support for this supplication’.

This is what he had written to His Holiness, on returning back, Je Lama [Phabongkha] told me [the author of Phabongkha’s biography] that although he had responded to the past letters from His Holiness sincerely with no knowledge of them being words of reprimand, sources had told him about His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s deep displeasure, which is also reflected in His Holiness’ letters that were received later. So, he told me [the author of his biography] that he would follow the legacy of some past Kagyu masters, that even if the Lama said it to be east while pointing to the direction from where the sun sets, to only consider others wrong and not the Lama”.

[Excerpt from His Holiness’ speech on Dolgyal on 14th Jan. 2008]

Around this time when Kyabje Phabongkha Rinpoche [who was about fifty four years old] got an audience with His Holiness the 13th Dalai Lama, Kyabje Phabongkha told him that there were many requesting him to teach Lamrim [teachings on graduated steps of the path to enlightenment] and that he was thinking of doing that. To that, the 13th Dalai Lama responded that for the time being he should leave that aside. This is something that Shezur had related to me, and here in this biography you see the same thing.

Thus, although he was a Lama who had received much support and favoritism from His Holiness the 13th Dalai Lama, even allowing him to teach in place of the Gaden Tripa, in the later part of Phabongkha Rinpoche’s life, His Holiness 13th the Dalai Lama restricted his [active public] teachings.

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